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EMC-owned Spanning sounds alarm over enterprise attitude to SaaS backups

EMC's recently acquired SaaS backup firm claims companies are playing fast and loose with protecting their cloud data

Enterprises are taking unnecessary business risks by mistakenly assuming their data will be automatically backed up when they use cloud-based services. 

Speaking at the 2015 EMC World conference in Las Vegas, Jeff Erramouspe, CEO of software-as-a-service (SaaS) app backup provider Spanning, said this is a common misconception among enterprise cloud users.

“People think that when they go to the cloud and SaaS the provider is going to take care of all their backup and recovery needs, but what the provider does is protect itself from its own errors,” said Erramouspe.

“I’m never going to lose data in Google because a server goes down. That’s never going to happen. However, if I accidentally delete that data myself then it’s gone,” he said, describing how the thought process might take place.

The situation becomes even more complex when users rely on SaaS services that plug-in to other cloud offerings and the effects of user error can spread even further.

“A typical Salesforce customer integrates Salesforce at a data level with at least 10 different apps. So it’s really easy for someone to make a mistake, do a sync in the wrong direction and wipe out their data,” said Erramouspe.

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“When that happens Salesforce will help you get it back, but you’ll have to pay for it and it might not come back in the format you expect. So we protect against all of those things.”

Simon Robinson, analyst and vice-president of 451 Research, said it’s not uncommon for enterprises to get complacent about cloud data backup, but many are starting to see the error of their ways.

“Many people assume this data is somehow protected by the SaaS provider, but this is not necessarily the case,” said Robinson.

“More IT organisations are realising that even though they’re running many apps in the cloud, it is still their data and tthey are responsible for looking after it.”

Courting the enterprise with EMC

Spanning was acquired by EMC in October 2014. It specialises in backing up users’ Google Apps, Salesforce and – more recently – Microsoft Office 365 data.

Before it was acquired by EMC, the company mainly focused on courting small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but it’s now setting its sights on getting a slice of the enterprise cloud backup market too.

“It’s very easy for us to get attention now. When we were a 50-person company, out there on our own, the response might have been ‘Spanning who?’.

“Now, when someone from EMC goes to talk to a CIO about how they’re protecting their SaaS application data, they pay attention to us,” said Erramouspe.

With several of its competitors concentrating their efforts on courting SMEs with their backup offerings, he said Spanning has largely got the enterprise market to itself.

“As we go after Office 365, lots of large companies have moved or are in the process of moving to the cloud, and I’d be shocked if the majority of them don’t,” he said.

“They’re starting to realise the benefits of being cloud-based and not having to manage Exchange servers and all the things around that, but also realise the importance of ensuring their data is being protected.”

Over the course of EMC World, the storage giant has repeatedly impressed on delegates how the individual parts of its business – which include VMware, Pivotal, RSA and VCE – can collectively help users move safely to the cloud, tap into big data opportunities and create new apps.

Spanning also has an important role to play in helping EMC’s customers embrace cloud technologies, said Erramouspe, while protecting some of the firm’s historical sources of income.

“We help EMC in that as companies move their workloads from on-premise to the cloud, there are some revenue streams for EMC that are at risk,” he explained.

“And now we provide a product that they can sell, so the people selling Avamar [EMC’s on-premise disaster recovery offering] to back up Exchange can now sell Spanning to back up their Office 365 deployments.”

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The industry still has a long way to go in terms of education about how cloud services work. Too many people treat SaaS services like consumer applications. 
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